Forrest on left, poses with Matty and Elsie Laird along with Ken Love on far right. 

2022 Hall of Fame Inductee-

Forrest Lovley

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Vintage Airplane magazine. Written by Erin Henze.

FORREST LOVLEY, EAA 19414, has had a lifelong passion for vintage aviation. Forrest learned to fly in Minnesota during high school and “at age 18, just after graduation, made a solo flight from Minneapolis to Maine and returned in a Model A-powered Pietenpol Air Camper, which had been built in 1933, some 30 years earlier,” according to Forrest’s lifelong friend James E. Ladwig, EAA 24879. Forrest was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served in the Army Airborne. In 1976, Forrest married his wife, Linda, going on to raise two sons, Vaughn and Matthew. Alongside raising a family, Forrest managed to restore a large number of antique airplanes.

Forrest has restored over 15 vintage aircraft. Alongside a couple of Wacos and a handful of Pietenpols, he’s also managed to restore a variety of notable aircraft. In 1972, Forrest restored an original Model A Pietenpol Sky Scout with a Chevrolet Vega auto engine, N12942, winning Best Auto-Powered Homebuilt at Oshkosh ’72. Five years later, Forrest restored the Kari-Keen Sioux Coupe, NC10721, one of the only 32 Kari-Keen Sioux Coupes ever built, which won Grand Champion Antique at Oshkosh ’77. In 1980, Forrest rebuilt the Wittman Big X, a one-of-a-kind build by Steve Wittman from 1945. In a July 1980 EAA Sport Aviation article about the restoration of the Wittman Big X, author Jack Cox commented on the speed and proficiency of Forrest’s work.

“We’ve told you in the previous articles how Forrest is the fastest gun in the Frozen Nawth when it comes to cranking out a restoration or a 100% homebuilt,” Jack said. “He builds or restores aircraft in months rather than the years we have come to expect from others … and little need be said here regarding the quality of his work. The Grand Champion trophy he has at home is eloquent enough testimony.”

Retired engineer and fellow vintage restorer James Wilson, EAA 29605, met Forrest through these famous aircraft.

“The first time I met and talked to Forrest was in the early ’70s when he brought his Vega-powered Pietenpol to Oshkosh,” James said. “In 1977, when he came in his Kari-Keen, I realized how often his name appeared with cool antiques and homebuilts and that he was the ‘go-to guy’ for all kinds of small radial and antique airplane information.”

Forrest is indeed the “go-to guy” when it comes to antique restorations. Many aviators owe gratitude to him, including the CEO of Lilja Corp. and vintage aircraft collector Walter Bowe, EAA 426319.

“I cannot recall the number of times I have called Forrest to ask questions on engine maintenance, operations, and overhaul questions,” Walter said. “The great thing about Forrest — if he does not know the answer, he will be honest and let you know; however, immediately he is on the hunt to pursue the answer for us avid antiquers. I would not begin to guess the number of airplanes that are still flying because of his involvement in aviation.”

Greg Herrick, EAA 402961, president of the Aviation Foundation of America, thoroughly agrees with this sentiment.

“I have called upon him many times with questions related to aviation history, particular aircraft restoration issues, or questions about parts sourcing, or engines from the OX-5 onward — really just anything about vintage aircraft,” Greg said. “Forrest has never wavered in his answers or support of our ‘great cause.’”

Despite all his hard work, Forrest still isn’t done with his restoration work. Airport commissioner and aviation author Noel Allard, EAA 109779, explained Forrest’s current project.

“In no way is Forrest sitting on his laurels; he continues now working on restoring an aircraft that has challenged him, perhaps the most, a 1929 Cessna DC-6A, which he has owned for a couple decades or more,” Noel said. “During hundreds of hours, he created a complete new one-piece wing for it, which is a work of art.”

However, this work and dedication isn’t simply so he can fly the aircraft.

“His goal never has been to just make an airplane flyable again; he is dedicated to making each artifact a flawless flying machine,” Noel said. “A walk around one of his restorations will turn up no dings, no temporary fixes, no deviations from the original.”

Forrest’s friends and fellow antiquers can’t say enough good about his work and character.

“Forrest is generous in sharing the great knowledge he has acquired about antique airplanes, and equally generous in sharing parts to the owners of airplanes from which they had originally come,” James Ladwig explained. “He says, ‘I’m not giving them to you; I’m giving them back to the airplane to which they belong.’”

Addison Pemberton, EAA 153948, president of Pemberton and Sons, reiterates this sentiment.

“I find Forrest an invaluable resource for technical support for one-of-a-kind treasured antique/vintage aircraft,” Addison said. “Forrest always has the right answer and is always happy to help. He has a deep passion for the old airplanes, and is a craftsman and true aviator, highly respected in our little world. Forrest is a household name in the old airplane community. He has earned the respect and admiration from my family and friends.”

Through all the dedication and hard work Forrest has put in, he has stayed humble.

“Personal relationships Forrest has had with Matty Laird, Bernard Pietenpol, Steve Wittman, and all the rest of us attest to the respect he has garnered in our community,” James Wilson said. “I know of no one who has quietly done more for the interests that we hold dear. Forrest has well earned his place in the VAA Hall of Fame.”